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Stones versus Routines: Students and Politicians in Higher Education Tuition Policy *

The Politics of Inequality

ISBN: 978-1-83909-363-0, eISBN: 978-1-83909-362-3

Publication date: 19 July 2021


Welfare state retrenchment in advanced industrialized countries seeks to expand market-like logics in public services, based on the assumption that public services benefit from non-state initiative and competition. This logic gained a stronghold in policymaking, but its implementation nevertheless struggled to find acceptance. Public university tuition is one such case where policymakers aimed to increase investment in human capital through cost sharing. While students in some countries accept them as a necessary evil, opposition arises in others. Students in Germany and Turkey took to the streets in support of tuition-free higher education. Despite differences in their political contexts and the differential mediating role political culture plays, student mobilization reversed right-wing parties' policies. This article focuses on how opposition to tuition policies is covered by the news in both countries. Using a mixed-methods approach combining topic modeling with qualitative analysis, I show that student protests and tuition policy discussions are reported separately. In both countries, student protests involving confrontation were highlighted whereas reports on institutional actors dominated policy discussions. However, when movements pressure political parties to “own” an issue in their platform, party endorsement subsequently amplifies issue salience even if movement organizations and parties are not covered together by the media. This indicates an indirect effect of movements' collective action on news coverage. Political party endorsements mediate the amount of coverage movement issues receive. This finding provides insights into how opposition to welfare state retrenchment might navigate difficulties in closed media cultures that heavily favor institutional actors.



Türkoğlu, D. (2021), "Stones versus Routines: Students and Politicians in Higher Education Tuition Policy * ", Pettinicchio, D. (Ed.) The Politics of Inequality (Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 28), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 67-90.



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